Throughout most of its history, modern day Kerkrade was part of the historic city of Herzogenrath. The South Limburg area was commonly disputed between different duchies and nations around it, and Herzogenrath changed hands repeatedly. It was ruled over time by the Duchy of Brabant, by Spain and later by the French. When the Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed after the French revolutionairy and Napoleonic wars, the area's ownership was determined at the Vienna Congress. There, the border was drawn right through the middle of historic Herzogenrath, creating the two adjoining towns of Kerkrade in the Netherlands and modern day Herzogenrath in Germany. When the Belgians declared their independence, they claimed the Kerkrade area as their own, but Dutch ownership was eventually restored in 1839.
In 1104, a abbey was founded in former Herzogenrath, by an Angustian priest named Ailbertus. After his death, his bones were buried in the abbey's crypt. The monks of Rolduc started coal mining activities in the area in the 18th century and received the sole right to exploit the coal mines on Kerkrade's soil in 1723. They thus laid the foundations for what would become the main economic activity in the town and the whole region.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the first state mines were opened. Coal mining became the beating heart of the region's economy and the main source of income for many of its people. When all the mines were closed in the 1960s, Kerkrade became somewhat impoverished. Still considered one of the underdeveloped parts of the region by some, Kerkrade is not a main travelers' destination. However, as renovations and facilities development take place, the town is gaining tourist popularity rapidly.
Travelers who do take the effort to visit Kerkrade will find a good number of interesting sights as well a good attractions in and directly around town.
There is a train station in Kerkrade, which is served by regional trains and connects the town to Landgraaf and Heerlen. In Heerlen there's a rail connection to the intercity trains to and from the north Heerlen. In Landgraaf you can change for the German towns of Herzogenrath or Aachen
Bus lines lead to other Dutch towns in the region as well as to Aachen and Herzogenrath in Germany. However, not all of them pass through the main bus station in the city center so check which stop to use. Many buses stop at the Parkstad Limburg stadion or Gaiapark, which is still a good distance from the town center. However, you can easily change there for buses to Kerkrade center.
- Line 44 between Heerlen and Aachen passes through
- Line 41 runs between Kerkrade and Sittard via Heerlen and Hoensbroek
- Line 30 goes to Herzogenrath
- Line 28 runs from Schinveld to Kerkrade Bleijerheide via Heerlen
There are two main roads connecting Kerkrade to the outside world:
- N300 in the direction of Simpelveld, which connects there to the N281 and the E14/A76
- N299 in the direction of Landgraaf and Brunssum
The nearest airport is Maastricht-Aachen airport, with a few international connections. As for the rest of the region, larger Dutch, Belgian and German airports are within reasonable travel distance, so consider:
- Eindhoven Airport, 113 km or ~2 hr by train
- Düsseldorf International Airport, 107 km or ~2½ hr by train
- Brussels International Airport, 134 km
- Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, 227 km or ~3 hours by train
A bike is a fine way to see town and a few villages around, but renting one here can be a bit of a challenge. Ask at the tourist information office in the Continium museum, or rent your bike in a more touristic town in the area.
Parking is quite abundantly available but in the center you usually have to pay. Large free parking places can be found at Diepenbrockstraat (near the Rodahal), Einderstraat and Old Hickeryplein.
- 1 Gaia Park, Dentgenbachweg 105, 6468 PG, ☏ . This zoo was voted the most beautiful one in the Benelux. It has different habitats for the animals living in it, even putting animals together in habitats which they would normally share in nature. The idea is to give a more complete picture of the living conditions of animals in the wild. The zoo is themed into several continents.
- 2 Discovery Center Continium, Museumplein 2, ☏ . This science and technology discovery museum combines information on mining in the old days with a view into the future. It addresses issues such as climate change, nano technology, the cars of the future etc. Despite the obvious focus on education and children, it is fun for grown ups just the same. €11.
- 3 Rolduc Abbey, Heyendallaan 82, ☏ . This 900-year-old abbey now serves as a conference center and hotel. It's an impressive view from the outside, and a Dutch national heritage site. Or follow in the foodsteps of the monks that lived in this tranquil place for centuries and stay the night. A few guided tours are organized irregularly, to explore the history of Rolduc. Check the website for dates and other information.
- 4 Erenstein Castle, Kerkradersteenweg 4, ☏ . This 14th-century castle is surrounded by a water-filled moat. It was named after the family van Ederen that once owned it. Throughout its history it served as a home for many noble families. Nowadays, it houses an upscale restaurant and (in the castle's farm buildings) a luxurious hotel. It has a private entrance to the Gaiapark Zoo.
- 5 Baalsbruggermolen (Watermill), Baalsbruggerweg 28. The only abbey watermill in the Netherlands, the mill is being restored to its former glory in the Worm River which borders Germany and the Netherlands.
- 6 Schacht Nulland, Domaniale Mijnstraat 30, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Only on appointment (15 persons minimum). One of the only 2 mineshafts still standing in the Netherlands, showing the mining history of the old southern part of Limburg. A group of volunteers is restoring this shaft to its former state.
- 1 Snowworld, Witte Wereld 1, Landgraaf, ☏ . The largest indoor ski resort in Europe is in nearby Landgraaf. It is a great place to learn to ski or snow board, whatever the weather holds. There are 2 fairly long pistes and a snow board fun park. Rates drop in summer, especially for private lessons. However, the fastest piste isn't available during summer as it is used by professionals to practice. There's a hotel, too.
- [dead link] Groenmetropool, email@example.com. Explore the industrial history and heritage of Kerkrade and the surrounding area. Where Dutch, German and Belgian town have always been connected underground through the layers of coal that determined their economy's, they now join forces for project Groenmetropool (Green metropole). Two routes where set up to explore the tri-national industrial heritage: one for bikes and one for cars. Kerkrade is one of the main participants. Check the website or VVV tourist information office for routes and more information. Most information is in Dutch and German.
- 2 GlowGolf Kerkrade, Roda JC-Ring 2F, 6466 NH Kerkrade, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 15:00-22:00, Sa Su 11:00-00:00 (check website for more accurete information). You will be golfing on an indoor glow in the dark golf course. €8 pp (kids up to 4 years for free).
- 3 Space Jump Parkstad, Roda J.C. Ring 2k, 6466 NH Kerkrade, ☏ . 11:30–21:00. Jumping on trampolines and jumping past obstacle courses.
- 4 Powerarea, ☏ . Karting, paintball and escape rooms.
The tourist information office in Continium, has a range of local products. Kerkrade has a fair range of general shopping option in the center but if you're on a hunt for clothing or up for a real shopping spree, catch a bus to Heerlen instead.
- 1 Post office, Marktstr 23 (In Thuiskantoor en Boekhandel Deurenberg). The local post office can help you out with most services, including international postal.
- 1 Kasteel Erenstein, Oud-Erensteinerweg 10. Dinner at Erenstein Castle is only an option if you're looking to indulge in a splurge. This upscale restaurant isn't cheap, but for the price you get a royal dinner. Take a stroll around before you order and then enjoy the original, good cuisine. €50 for 4 courses.
- 2 Ristorante Pizzeria Da Constantino, Piusstraat 7, ☏ . Serves pizza and other Italian dishes. €12.
For clubbing or serious nightlife your best bet is to head to nearby Heerlen, as most youngsters from here do. However, Kerkrade itself has a few bars that are fine for a beer or two. Walk around the market square and you'll find a few options.
- 1 [formerly dead link] Grandcafe Jules, Markt 54, ☏ . A good place for an afternoon or early evening drink. It closes at 21:00.
- 2 De Wieëtsjaf, Markt 49, ☏ . Many bars here focus on local clubs and associations, around anything from sports to carnival clubs or darts groups. This old-fashioned bar with a party venue is one of the examples.
Kerkrade, as so many other cities and places in Limburg, is a hub of drug trafficking. Crime goes hand in hand with these practices. If you just want to smoke a joint, go to one of the legalized "coffee shops".
Prostitution in lawful in the Netherlands and there are some of these brothels in Kerkrade. Getting in bed with a street prostitute carries a very high risk of getting an STD. Stay safe: if going to a brothel always use a condom.
Meeting "junkies" and wanderers, which happens occasionally at supermarkets and in city centres, is a hassle as they are often asking for money. Locals find this annoying, since they already have an income from the state to survive and are often begging to obtain money to purchase illegal street drugs. Giving money to drug addicts encourages drug-related crime and might also encourage other beggars to panhandle you. Normally, these people do not pick-pocket your wallet but, as in any city in the world, keep an eye on your personal items.